"Who wants to be the leader? Pick Me! Pick Me!"
"In a workforce populated primarily with gen X, Y and millennials, a tipping point has been reached and it is they who are telling us how they want to be led."
That's a refrain I used to hear a lot as a 10 year old, when everyone wanted to be the ‘leader of the gang’ (and yes, I am showing my age.)
Fast forward to the real world of work and it was another 25 years before I heard the word leader used again.
As one of the younger baby boomers still hanging around in the workplace, I have been intrigued by the shift from management of a task to leadership of people as a core executive competency.
I am also occasionally disconcerted by the fact most employees now have clear and precise expectations of their leaders and are not afraid to tell us what they are.
When I started work back at the tail end of the 70s, the very notion a subordinate had any demands they could make of their bosses would have been laughable.
Bosses were there to tell you what to do in whatever way they chose. Sometimes they did this nicely and sometimes not. It was obvious which was preferable but you got what you got and that was that.
Things have moved on. In a workforce populated primarily with gen X, Y and millennials, a tipping point has been reached and it is they who are telling us how they want to be led.
Even more importantly, it is pretty clear if they don't like the leadership style in one company, they will up sticks and move to another without a second thought, but not before providing feedback of you as an employer to hundreds of their real and virtual friends.
At ANZ we carry out an annual survey of all our staff we call ‘MyVoice’. Typically around three quarters of our 50,000 employees take the time to answer around 60 questions to let us know what they really think and they expect us to act upon their feedback.
Like many others we identify an engagement score, which is an index of four core questions covering satisfaction, pride in the company, intent to stay and whether they would recommend ANZ as a great place to work.
We are then able to determine which of the myriad of questions we ask are most likely to drive that engagement score up if improved (or down if they decrease).
It is not pay, benefits, teamwork or the availability of resources that are key drivers. Instead, six of the 10 questions that most drive engagement relate to the quality of senior leadership.
This is quite a distinct group from immediate management, about whom questions are also asked, but whose proximity has less impact on engagement than the actions and behaviours of a handful of senior leaders who are often many miles (and layers) away.
So what is it our employees expect of us these days? Well, quite a lot actually, and it can be daunting and exhausting to deliver on.